What’s Next for Zim Theatre?

By Godwin Muzari Entertainment Editor
Filmmakers are boasting about their productions going on international platforms, musicians are stampeding for online performances and visual artists are posting their works on social media to attract prospective buyers, but there is little activity on the theatre scene. Since the lockdown — necessitated by the fight against coronavirus — took effect at the end of March, theatre lovers have been starved of new productions.

Theatre practitioners went into their shells when they were told to stay at home and most of them are still to put in place new strategies to keep the industry vibrant. Some countries have already activated live online performances on theatre arenas, but local production houses are still to join the train.

It seems gatherings will not be allowed anytime soon as Covid-19 cases continue to rise. Stage plays with physical spectators will remain topics for nostalgic discussions for some time. What is next for local theatre and what are the practitioners doing to reactivate their creative hubs?

Renowned theatre expert Raisedon Baya of Intwasa Arts said there are many constraints for practitioners in this era and a number of concepts have to be considered for theatre to resume productions.

“A group of theatre gurus has approached relevant authorities with proposals of models that can be used to revive productions in the face of coronavirus and lockdown restrictions. “We are looking for possible resumption of live stage performances with limited numbers of audiences. The advantage with theatre in Zimbabwe is that it has fewer followers and productions can be watched by about 40 to 50 people, so it could be possible to have live shows with strict precautions against the spread of the virus being followed,” said Baya.

“The other option, which many are already considering, is doing online performances that are popular in other genres. Our challenge is funding.

Performers would want something in return, so it will not be an easy route unless many sponsors come aboard. Otherwise actors and actresses will not be willing to participate without lucrative incentives “Individual practitioners are considering various viable concepts and intervention of responsible authorities will determine the shape that theatre productions will take in this era.”

Tafadzwa Muzondo of Edzai Isu Trust that runs Theatre Pabridge, a community theatre initiative in Highfiled, says there is no hope for resumption of performances anytime soon. They are working on a plan to engage their audiences virtually.

“We last had a performance towards the end of March and we had to postpone another show when the lockdown started. We have been at home hoping that restrictions would be relaxed soon, but indications from latest coronavirus cases are calling for a new strategy,” said Muzondo.

“We know people want to enjoy new productions and we are currently in the process of setting up new concepts. We will eventually go the virtual way, but we are working towards the best approach to use. We will definitely resume productions regardless of the lockdown. We will be announcing our new concepts soon.” Daves Guzha and his Rooftop Promotions have worked on a blueprint that is under discussion for possible strategies to resume productions.

Theatre it the Park venue under Rooftop Promotions has already hosted a live online music concert and focus now has to go to theatre and other genres.

“As Rooftop Promotions, we are working on a more robust and consistent programme as well as to increase digital presence for Theatre in the Park as we become studio of choice for various artistic disciplines. Focal areas are theatre, music, dance, film, spoken word and debates,” said Guzha.

Daniel Maposa from Savanna Trust believes the lockdown has brought an opportunity to rethink models. “Lockdowns caught theatre unawares and we have to rethink our models. Even on stage, most productions have close physical contact and without necessary interventions for safety, it would be difficult to have plays,” said Maposa.

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